Martin Hannan: Let’s cash in on Festival funding

Edinburgh Festival Fringe madness on the Royal Mile. Picture: Alex Hewitt'alex
Edinburgh Festival Fringe madness on the Royal Mile. Picture: Alex Hewitt'alex
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The biggest and best arts party in the world is under way, and it’s here in Edinburgh. Nothing, but nothing, even comes close to the Edinburgh Festival as a celebration of the arts and the human spirit in general.

It is quite simply the biggest annual arts event in the world and to realise its magnificence, you only have to look at its competitors across the world – competitors yes, but rivals? Well, not yet.

The good folk who put together the amazing festival that was the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games boasted that they brought million of pounds into Scotland, and that was true. But the Edinburgh Festival does that every year without fail.

Now let’s compare the amount of public expenditure that Glasgow 2014 got – north of £550 million and counting. The various Edinburgh Festivals? Maybe £5m of public money a year if they’re lucky.

In other words, for the public cash spent on the Commonwealth Games 2014, we could have funded the Festivals for a century.

Don’t get me wrong, the Glasgow budget was money well spent, as every penny reflected well on Scotland, and yes, it was a one-off event, unlikely ever to be repeated in our lifetimes. For every city in the Commonwealth will vie to put on a ‘Glasgow’, so we won’t see them here again in a hurry.

Meanwhile the Edinburgh International Festival, the Fringe, the Tattoo, the book and film festivals, and the others generate vast wads of income for Scotland, the majority of which is spent in and around the Capital, of course, but which several studies have shown to have a massive knock-on effect on the Scottish economy.

I have long thought that we get the festivals on the cheap, and the thousands of jobs they support would be seriously at risk if the funding was reduced.

That could be happening – had it not been for the Scottish Government stepping in to ensure additional funds in recent years, the public expenditure on the Festival would not have kept pace with inflation.

What we need to do is to ensure that Edinburgh’s festivals stay on an even keel which will require something that you do not get very often in the Capital – some joined-up long-term thinking, or JULTT as nobody calls it.

With a bit of JULTT, we could plan a fiscal future for the festivals that would really work and would keep them top of the tree. Make no mistake, there are plenty of cities out there – Manchester for one – which are coming up fast in terms of organising arts festivals, and which are prepared to throw oodles of cash at their projects. We in Scotland don’t have much spare public money at the moment, but we must try and maximise what can be given to the festivals.

So why not create a Festivals Fund? Why not get government and business, big and small, to commit their support to a fund that would support the festivals around the year? Why not stop spending Lottery money on vanity projects and put a large dollop of what is, after all, our money, into a fund that supports something that is proven to work?

Glasgow got its cash and deservedly so. Now it’s time for Edinburgh’s festivals to get theirs.

Thanks to all our medal heroes

It was a privilege to be wearing another hat and be in the SSE Hydro on Saturday afternoon to see Charlie Flynn and Josh Taylor win boxing gold for Scotland.

It was particularly pleasing to see Josh add gold to his silver in Delhi four years ago, and Prestonpans’ finest deserved all the praise he got.

I mentioned to Josh that there might be a “party in the Pans” and even some of the Scottish press were mystified by that suggestion.

I am reliably informed that East Lothian really did enjoy a party on Saturday night, and to all our Lothians medallists and to all those who competed for Scotland, let’s offer them a very big thank you indeed

Yes! We’re back to the political reality at last

MAYBE it’s just me, but I can’t help feeling glad that we are going to get back to boring old politics after a welcome break from the subject during the Games.

This SNP member is still confident that there will be a narrow win for the Yes campaign, not least because I know that the campaign’s leaders such as Nicola Sturgeon, who I met in Glasgow at the weekend, are really up for the final stretch.

I cannot say the same for Better Together which increasingly looks like Beastly Together, so clearly do the various Unionist parties detest each other.

The plane truth is London will always be first

SO now Glasgow and Aberdeen airports are to be sold off by Heathrow Airport Holdings.

The clue to the sell-off is in their name. There can be little doubt that two Scottish airports are to be sold to fund investment in Heathrow, which tells you everything about multinationals and how they view the United Kingdom. London first, the rest nowhere.